HSBC calls for "calm consideration" following Brexit vote, as profits slide thanks to uncertain environment

Hayley Kirton
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The bank called it a "reasonable performance in the face of considerable uncertainty" (Source: Getty)

HSBC has today revealed its pre-tax profits have fallen 29 per cent during its first half of 2016, while suggesting it will be taking a cautious but calm approach to the Brexit vote.

The figures

The bank reported profits before tax for the first six months of the year of $9.7bn (£7.3bn), down 28.7 per cent from $13.6bn, calling it a "reasonable performance in the face of considerable uncertainty".

HSBC also reported profit before tax for the second quarter to June of $3.6bn, down 45.1 per cent from $6.6bn for the same quarter the year before and faring worse than many analysts expected.

The bank also announced a share buy-back programme of up to $2.5bn for the second half of 2016, spurred on by the disposal of HSBC Brazil last month.

Meanwhile, revenue for the first half of the year fell to $29.5bn, down from $32.9bn the year before.

Why it's interesting

The Brexit vote has dealt a blow to banks worldwide, and, as HSBC was among one of the first to voice an opinion on what a Leave decision might mean for jobs, many likely scoured their announcement today for answers.

In today's results statement, the banking giant said this was a time for "calm consideration of all the issues", adding one of its key priorities was to reassure staff who were working outside their home country.

HSBC also cautioned "it is evident that we are entering a period of heightened uncertainty where economic risks [are] being overshadowed by political and geo-political events".

It added that although it considers itself to be in a strong position for both capitalisation and liquidity, its already "very heavy workload" would be added to if changes needed to be made once issues surrounding passporting became clearer.

However, thanks to the bank's focus on Asia, share price has recovered nicely since the initial 24 June shock.

HSBC Holdings HSBC Holdings | mobile image

But it's not all about Brexit for banks - many are also struggling to wade through the lower for longer interest rate environment, and the likelihood of more cuts being on the cards tomorrow is not helping.

Douglas Flint, group chairman, revealed in his statement that, thanks partly to the low interest rate environment, the bank was now scrapping its timetable to reach return on equity in excess of 10 per cent.

What HSBC said

Stuart Gulliver, group chief executive, said:

We performed reasonably well in the first half. I am particularly pleased with our progress in reducing costs and continuing to reduce risk-weighted assets.

Our highly diversified, universal banking business model helped to drive growth in a number of areas and we captured market share in many of the product categories that are central to our strategy.

While economic conditions remain difficult, we are making progress in all of the areas within our control.

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